Andrew Gaynord’s directorial debut is an anxious fever-dream of half-buried class shame and resentment among the privileged classes
Tom Stourton endures the birthday from hell in All My Friends Hate Me, an angst-ridden comedy of upper-class guilt and paranoia. In director Andrew Gaynord’s feature debut, 30-something Pete (Stath Lets Flats’ Stourton) goes for a weekend on the lash with his old mates from uni, who all come in varying shades of posh. The only problem is, he’s not sure anyone really likes him all that much. His fears are compounded by the presence of an overbearing stranger, Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), who seems to have usurped his self-proclaimed role as the group’s funster-in-chief (Harry, to Pete: “I’ve heard a lot about you. Apparently you’re one of the funniest guys on the planet!” Pete: *choking noises*).
As the weekend wears on and the indignities pile up around Pete, Harry becomes a focal point for his paranoia. What’s with this guy’s habit of furtively taking notes every time Pete makes a weak attempt at banter? Why does he keep winding him up about his suicidal ex? But, just as Pete begins to wonder if Harry is really who he says he is, the audience might wonder the same thing about Pete. His repeated attempts to share stories about his work with refugees fall on deaf ears with the group, which he chalks up to their natural toffish indifference. But is there a trace of bad conscience here that gives us a clue as to Pete’s own identity?
Despite the usual Britcom shortcomings – Gaynord’s direction lacks the style to carry a genuine sense of threat – Stourton and co-writer Tom Palmer’s screenplay finds resonance in the idea. (Stourton himself is a descendant of the 19th Baron Stourton, though that might be a bit like Danny Dyer discovering he’s a “lawd” for all I know.) Part cringe-comedy, part paranoid thriller in the mold of Joel Edgerton’s The Gift, it’s an anxiety dream of half-buried class shame and resentment featuring supporting turns from some of UK comedy’s best and brightest young talents (Pure’s Charly Clive; How Europe Stole My Mum’s Kieran Hodgson, popping up in a bizarre cameo as “fake Pete”). Among its charms is the way it nails British people's astounding ability to find all kinds of meanings in excessive use of the word “maaaate”, none of them friendly – which, in a film about bad friends, feels about right.